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Showing posts from October, 2010

Interior Dog Sniff of Open Car Not Illegal Warrantless Search

In United States v. Pierce, No. 09-3865 (3d Cir., October 1, 2010), the defendant was stopped by a Delaware State trooper for speeding. According to the trooper, the defendant's responses to his questions led the trooper to remove the defendant from the vehicle. As the defendant complied with the trooper's command, he left the front driver's side door open. At some point, the trooper requested that a narcotics dog conduct a K-9 examination of the car. As the narcotics dog and its handler circled the vehicle, the dog alerted when he reached the front passenger side door. When the dog and its handler reached the driver's side of the car, the dog immediately jumped into the driver's seat through the open door. The dog intently sniffed the glove box and air vents. In response to the dog's alert, the trooper searched the glove box and discovered approximately one kilogram of cocaine and over $20,000 in cash.

Citing the Eighth and Tenth Circuits, the Third Circuit de…

PWID is Lesser-Included Offense of PWID Within 1000 Feet of School

In United States v. Petersen, No. 08-4794 (3d Cir., October 1, 2010), the two defendants initially were charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine powder within 1000 feet of a school, as well as aiding and abetting each other's possession. The evidence showed that, during surveillance of a high crime area, police observed the defendants exchanging a plastic bag which the officers described as a heavy brick-shaped object. As the two men attempted to drive away from the area, police moved to intercept them. During a brief chase, police claimed that they observed someone in the defendant's vehicle discard a plastic bag through a window. When the plastic bag was later retrieved, police discovered what was later identified as crack cocaine inside. Police eventually apprehended the defendants. During a search incident to their arrests, police discovered a plastic bag containing brick-shaped objects covered with a white powder. Police also recovered ma…

CP Case: No Outrageous Conduct in Use of Fugitive CI; 1080 Month Sentence Reasonable

U.S. v. Christie, 2010 WL 4026817 (Sep. 15, 2010) (published Oct. 15, 2010).
During an unrelated fraud investigation, agents were contacted by the attorney of Lochmiller - fugitive, and administrator of the NAMGLA (North American Man Girl Love Association) website. In exchange for dropping the fraud charges, Lochmiller (at all times through counsel) provided authorities user access, and eventually administrator access, to the NAMGLA website. This ultimately led to a mass “take down” of NAMGLA users, including Christie, who was a moderator and “prolific” contributor to the site. A search of Christie's residence produced hundreds of discs, printed images, and a hard drive with thousands of images of child pornography. Composition notebooks with access and content notes on various child pornography websites also included references to Christie’s postings on the NAMGLA website. Agents also found a collection of children's toys in the house, which Christie (a bus driver) said were u…

Circuit Applies Skilling, Reverses Honest Services Conviction

In United States v. Riley, 2010 WL 3584066 (3d. Cir. Sept. 16, 2010), the Court held that the district court’s instruction to the jury that honest services fraud did not require scheme to defraud another to obtain money or property, and could instead be based on violation of duty of honest, faithful, and disinterested service, was plainly erroneous. Riley is the Third Circuit’s first application of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Skilling v. United States, --- U.S. ----, 130 S.Ct. 2896 (2010), holding that to remain within constitutional limitations, the honest services statute at § 1346 is limited to “fraudulent schemes to deprive another of honest services through bribes or kickbacks.”

Defendants here were convicted of three counts of mail fraud as part of a scheme to convey City-owned property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and 2, one count of fraud involving a local government receiving federal funds in connection with the fraudulent sale of City-owned properties in violat…

Circuit Affirms Inventory Search into Closed Containers

In United States v. Mundy, 2010 WL 3547435 (3d. Cir. Sept. 14, 2010), the court held that (1) the city police department's vehicle stop and impoundment guidelines provided sufficiently standardized criteria regulating scope of permissible inventory search, including searches of closed containers; (2) the officer's reliance on the guidelines was not a pretext for an investigatory search of vehicle.

Mundy was stopped for turning without using a turn signal and for window tinting. He was stopped less than 1,000 feet from a high school. Mundy was unable to locate documentation for the vehicle, and neither a check on the VIN or the license plate number produced a record of an owner. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles reported no registration information. Mundy was placed in the patrol car and a tow truck was called. One of the officers began to search the interior of the vehicle and, using a key Mundy provided, opened the locked trunk. The only items in the trunk were a tool kit an…

Third Circuit holds that the Government may need a warrant to compel a cell phone provider to produce historical cellular tower data that would disclo

In re Application of the U.S., No. 08-4227 (3d Cir. Sept. 7, 2010), involves whether the Government can covertly obtain, without a showing of probable cause, historical cellular tower data (also known as cell site location information, or CSLI) from a cellular phone service provider, under the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. s 2703. In this case, the Government – without first obtaining a warrant or subpoena or consent of the cell phone subscriber – applied for a court order requiring disclosure of CSLI as authorized under Sec. 2703(c). The Magistrate Judge denied the application, concluding that nothing in the Act authorizes the Magistrate Judge to order a provider’s covert disclosure of CSLI absent a showing of probable cause under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41. The District Court affirmed the Magistrate Judge’s denial.On appeal, the Government argues that the Act does not require it to demonstrate Rule 41 probable cause, but rather, under Sec. 2703(d), only “specific a…

Third Circuit holds that in criminal tax violations, willful blindness satisfies the legal knowledge component of the willfulness element.

United States v. Stadtmauer, No. 09-1575 (3d Cir. Sept. 9, 2010), involves several issues challenging the conviction, after a two-month trial, of Richard Stadtmauer, an executive in a promiment New Jersey real estate development firm. The Government charged that he had been involved in filing several fraudulent tax returns that claimed several categories of expenditures (such as charitable contributions) as fully deductible business expenses. The most significant legal challenge involved a willful blindness jury instruction.Stadtmauer argued that the Supreme Court’s opinion in Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192 (1991), precluded a willful blindness instruction. Cheek holds that criminal tax liability does not attach to a person who, in good faith, is ignorant of a legal duty, misunderstands that legal duty, or believes that such a legal duty does not exist. In accord with several other circuits, the Third Circuit concluded that a willful blindness instruction does not run afoul of C…